The Bronzeville / Black Chicagoan Historical Society was founded in 1999 by a small group
of enthusiastic Black Family History researchers.
Sherry Williams has been listening to stories about black life in Chicago as long as she can remember. For many years her mother has been providing her with personal recollections of moving to Bronzeville in 1942. These life experiences taught patience, fortitude and most of the history of African Americans in Chicago.
In looking at her early beginnings of documenting Chicago’s black history Sherry fondly remembers that activism was never hidden in her home. Black families that openly displayed leadership and good citizenship were common to many African Americans who moved here from the South during the Great Migration 1900 through 1950. But, life experiences for black people in Chicago often included racial tensions. A move for Sherry’s family in 1971, to West Englewood meant that her brother was going to enter Gage Park High School and racism met black kids at this school head on. These kinds of experiences, documents and photographs that focus black history too often have not been preserved.
In 1999, Sherry began the Bronzeville / Black Chicagoan Historical Society due to her increasing role as a mother to share with her daughters an accurate description of Black Life in Chicago. What started as a library research project in 1995 became a full blown mission to preserve, protect and to provide Chicago black history. Sherry thought it was best to keep her daughters from depending on the television to learn about the contributions that African Americans have made to this country. To keep the research personal, she requested that each daughter find information about African American doctors, lawyers, educators in the neighborhood (all three girls had grown tired of her pointing out Bronzeville historic sites). By 1999, the library research produced a publication titled 100 Notable People and Places in Bronzeville – (Black Chicago).
The organization has provided historical presentations, exhibits, and seminars in schools, churches, libraries and park districts. To date, 80% of Bronzeville / Black Chicagoan Historical Society holdings are documents, photographs, obituaries, memorabilia and books that have been donated by family and friends. The immediate goal of the Society is to digitize their holdings and to make them accessible via the internet or library visits.
“Being a story teller (griot) is a responsibility and a gift that my elders decided for me… I also understand that being a griot is what I LOVE.” – Sherry Williams
It was chartered in Illinois as a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization May 23, 2002. Membership enrollment is ongoing. Volunteer researchers and advisors are encouraged to join.
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